By Jake Donovan
Former lineal light heavyweight champion Zsolt Erdei suffered an injury during sparring and has been forced to withdraw from his New Year’s Eve showdown with unbeaten titlist Tavoris Cloud.
A replacement is being sought, with former titlist Gabriel Campillo in California and available to fill in. However, his consideration as substitute is secondary at the moment to the decision to still proceed with the unprecedented end-of-year card.
“Zsolt hurt his hand during sparring and is having problem throwing his punches,” promoter Lou DiBella informed Boxingscene.com Friday afternoon. “We took him to a doctor in hopes of being medically cleared to resume training, but an MRI showed too much swelling. We forwarded the medicals to Showtime, and they’re deciding whether or not to still go on with the show.”
Erdei, who turned 37 earlier this year, won the lineal championship with a dominant points win over Julio Gonzalez in 2004. He made 11 successful defenses of the title, all coming in Germany and his native Hungary, before vacating to challenge for and win a cruiserweight belt in defeating Giacobe Fragemoni in November 2009.
The bout was his last for nearly a year, with speculation that he was calling it a career. However, Erdei resurfaced a year later in joining the DiBella Entertainment stable.
His signing also resulted in his fighting the United States for the first time in eight years with a points win over Samson Onyango in their Nov. ’10 bout in Atlantic City. The fight served on the undercard to Sergio Martinez’ knockout win over Paul Williams. Despite his bout being just an eight-round non-televised affair, he proved to be a huge hit with the crowd, drawing more than 600 fans to the arena.
The title fight showdown with Cloud would’ve been Erdei’s third fight in the United States, and his first title fight in more than two years.
“He’s gutted that the fight won’t happen. He waited for more than a year to get a title shot and hates that he has to wait another 6-8 weeks before he can fight again,” DiBella stated. “We’re disappointed but it would’ve been worse to go through with the fight under those conditions. He’s no young kid and it would have been a disservice to the fans to throw him in as a one-armed fighter.”
The New Year’s Eve main event would’ve pit a pair of unbeaten light heavyweights, with Cloud bringing to the table a mark of 23-0 (19KO) and his alphabet title.
Campillo is the only notable name that has been mentioned as a viable fill-in. The Spaniard held a light heavyweight title for less than a year, having won the belt in June ’09. His one successful defense was a majority decision over then unbeaten Beibut Shumenov in his opponent’s native Kazakhstan.
Shumenov came back to beat Campillo five months later in a highly controversial decision win on Fox Sports last January. Nearly everyone at ringside had Campillo winning by a considerable margin, with his penchant for coming up short in the eyes of the judges resurfacing this past October in a disputed draw in his rematch with Karo Murat.
Despite a less than glossy mark of 21-3-1 (8KO), Campillo is regarded as a tough test for any top light heavyweight. He was already in California preparing for a planned return to the ring in January, but expressed his willingness to step in to replace Erdei.
Whether or not the story he brings is enough to saw the Showtime brass to keep the show alive is another matter altogether, since it’s more than just matching up good fighters that sold the network on the appeal of staging the show on a major holiday.
“Erdei is the biggest fighter to ever come out of Hungary,” DiBella says of the two-division champ. “He has a great story, a standout amateur and undefeated as a pro (33-0, 18KO). It’s tough to replace a guy like that, and Showtime is weighing its options before approving a replacement. You can’t ask for a better guy on short notice, but we’ll understand and support whatever decision is made.”
Calls placed to seek comment from representatives at Showtime were unsuccessful.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .